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    After hosting the World Cup, President Vladimir Putin says the country could bid for a future Summer Olympics. Asked about hosting a Summer Olympics in Russia for the first time since 1980, Putin says feasibility studies need to be conducted 'but obviously we will organize major international competitions here,' in comments reported by state news agency RIA Novosti. Russia held the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but its legacy was tainted by allegations of widespread doping which led to Russian athletes being forced to compete as neutrals at this year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The next summer games Russia could host would be in 2032, because Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles are already confirmed as hosting the 2020, 2024 and 2028 editions respectively.
  • IOC President Thomas Bach says the Olympic body is satisfied with the 2026 Winter Games hosting race, despite two bids dropping out in recent weeks. Austrian Olympic officials withdrew a project centered on Graz this month, and voters in Switzerland rejected Sion's planned bid last month. The International Olympic Committee is still in talks with five possible candidates: Turin and Milan in Italy; Stockholm; Erzurum, Turkey; Calgary, Canada; and Sapporo, Japan. Bach says, 'We are pretty happy with the status of this candidature procedure.' The IOC leader suggests fewer than five will be on the ballot paper when IOC members pick the host in October 2019 in Milan. Bach says cities unlikely to win could be advised against committing time and expense to remain in the race.
  • The way golf has been going the last few years, it would be reasonable to see the name 'Johnson' atop the leaderboard and assume it belonged to the No. 1 player in the world. But not necessarily at the British Open. Zach Johnson — not Dustin — already has his name on the claret jug. And the way he handled the rain Friday in his round of 4-under 67, he might have a chance to see it on that precious silver trophy again. Johnson holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th and had a one-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood at the midway point of the second round. Fleetwood, the top player on the European Tour last year, put together the best round of the week at Carnoustie with a 65. Rory McIlroy had another 69 and was two shots behind. Johnson was at 6-under 136, and had to wait to see if it would hold up. Kevin Kisner, the 18-hole leader, was among the late starters. The light rain from overnight never let up. It wasn't enough to turn the color of grass from brown to green, just enough to be a nuisance playing in rain gear, with towels hanging from the inside of umbrella to stay dry and putting surfaces that were slightly slower. Johnson overcame a bogey on the opening hole with birdies on the third and fourth holes, and he never put himself under too much pressure the rest of the way. Already a two-time major champion with titles at St. Andrews and Augusta National, the 42-year-old from Iowa now has made the cut 12 straight times in the British Open, a streak that began at Carnoustie in 2007. His low ball flight, grinding nature and good putting give him the right ingredients. As for that other Johnson? Dustin Johnson was headed toward being the first No. 1 player in the world to miss the cut at the Open since Luke Donald in 2011 at Royal St. George's. He appeared to keep it together with a tough par save from the bunker on No. 12, followed by two straight birdies. But he had another poor finish, closing bogey-double bogey for a 72 and is at 6-over 148 for 36 holes. Even as Tiger Woods was piecing together a level round, and late starters like Kisner and Jordan Spieth were still on the course, the cut figured to be about 3-over, plus or minus one shot. Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson, one of golf's most powerful players, share nothing in common but a surname. That hasn't kept the casual fan from occasionally calling Zach Johnson by the wrong name. 'I certainly am not the No. 1 player in the world that ends in 'Johnson,' he said. 'I've been called Dustin many times. I doubt he's been called Zach that many times. Zach Johnson has more than held his own. In the power era of golf, he is more of a pistol than a cannon. And yet he has still won 12 times on the PGA Tour, along with majors at the Masters and British Open. Fleetwood and McIlroy were playing a few groups ahead of Johnson, and it was a race to see who would wind up on top for much of the late morning until Johnson made his birdie putt on the final hole. Fleetwood shot 63 at Carnoustie last year in the Dunhill Links, but that was a European Tour event. In more difficult conditions, his 65 felt just as good, especially the birdie on the 18th that put him atop the leaderboard until Johnson finished. McIlroy, meanwhile, was within one shot until a long three-putt from just off the 12th green. He gave another shot back on the 15th when he pulled his second shot toward the gallery, though he made enough birdies to stay within range. 'Under those conditions, I would have taken that score today going out,' McIlroy said. 'It wasn't that bad, but it was just damp enough and cold enough that the game plan that I was trying to adapt to be aggressive and hit driver a lot, I just couldn't do it. ... So a lot more irons off tees and a lot more conservative, but ended up being the same score.' Dustin Johnson wasn't alone in his struggle this week. The No. 2 player in the world, Justin Thomas, also was headed toward a weekend off. Thomas was 2 under for the tournament when it took him two shots to get out of a pot bunker in the sixth fairway and three putts from long range on the green, leading to double bogey. He then made double bogey on the next two holes and wound up with a 77 to finish at 4 over.
  • The Latest on the British Open (all times local): 4:45 p.m. Shubhankar Sharma of India turns 22 on Saturday, and he already has the best present — a tee time at Carnoustie. Sharma, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year, appeared to be headed home when he was 5-over par for the British Open with six holes to play, including the difficult four-hole finish. He birdied three of the last six holes, including the 18th. Wanting to be sure he at least made par on the 18th, he fired his approach shot into 6 feet and made birdie. Sharma becomes the youngest Indian to make the cut in a major. ___ 3:45 p.m. Tigers Woods has shot an even-par 71 for the second straight day at the British Open. The 14-time major champion's birdie putt from 8 feet at the last rolled just past the right edge. Woods will be at Carnoustie for the weekend, though, with the cut projected for 2 over. ___ 3:15 p.m. David Duval, the British Open champion in 2001, has withdrawn ahead of his second round because of illness. Duval was 14 shots off the lead after shooting a 9-over 80 in his first round. Kevin Na and Scott Jamieson went out in a two-ball on Friday afternoon. ___ 1:50 p.m. Zach Johnson is the clubhouse leader on a rainy day where players are posting low scores in the British Open. Johnson, the 2015 champion, birdied the tough 18th hole to shoot a 67 and move a stroke ahead of three players, including first round leader Kevin Kisner and England's Tommy Fleetwood. A steady rain fell most of the morning, allowing players to be more aggressive off the tee and into the greens. A day earlier the course had played hard and fast at Carnoustie, which has had little rain this summer. Rory McIlroy is only two strokes back after shooting his second straight 69. Tiger Woods is still on the course, and is at even par playing the back nine. Woods made the turn in 1-over, then birdied the par-4 11th to draw back to even on the day. ___ 12:15 p.m. England's Tommy Fleetwood played his way through the rain to post a 6-under 65 and move into a tie for the lead in the second round of the British Open. Fleetwood, who posted the course record 63 at the Dunhill Links Championship last year at Carnoustie, played a bogey-free round on a course softened by rain that began overnight and continued through the morning. Fleetwood, who made a final round charge in the U.S. Open last month, was at 5-under-par through two rounds, tied with Zach Johnson and first round leader Kevin Kisner, who had yet to tee off. His 65 was one shot off the Open record at Carnoustie, set by Steve Stricker and Richard Green in 2007. Fleetwood birdied the fourth and fifth holes on his way to a front nine 33, then added three more birdies on the back nine — including one with a 15-foot putt on the final hole — to post the early clubhouse lead. Rory McIlroy was also in contention, just a shot off the lead, at 4-under through 16 holes. Tiger Woods was even par through seven holes. ___ 11:10 a.m. Tiger Woods fizzed a low hook from the thick rough into the legs of spectators on the second hole of his second round at the British Open. Spectators lining the right of the fairway appeared to ignore a request from Woods to 'move back, guys.' Playing the shot from a slope with the ball almost at waist height, Woods didn't get a clean connection and ball curled low, just above the wispy grass, and into the gallery. No one appeared to be hurt. Woods bogeyed the hole, and then No. 3, to drop to 2-over after starting out at even par. ___ 10:10 a.m. Zach Johnson won a British Open at St. Andrews in miserable conditions in 2015. In the rain Friday, he made a move toward the top of the leaderboard in the Open at Carnoustie. Johnson bogeyed his first hole, but ran off three birdies to get to 4-under through six. He was tied for second a shot behind first round leader Kevin Kisner, who had an afternoon tee time. Carnoustie was dry and hard in Thursday's first round, but a steady rain began falling overnight and the morning players stood under umbrellas between shots. Tiger Woods was among those with a morning tee time. Woods shot an even par 71 in the first round and was five shots off the lead. ____ 8:30 a.m. Dustin Johnson arrived at Carnoustie as the betting favorite. The goal now is for the world's No. 1 player not to leave on Saturday. Johnson finished his opening round with a three-putt triple bogey and a 76, his highest score in the first round of the British Open since a 78 in his debut at Turnberry in 2009. Perhaps even more surprising is that Johnson made only one birdie, on the par-5 14th hole. The last player to miss the cut at the British Open as No. 1 in the world was Luke Donald in 2011 at Royal St. George's. Friday brings a different test at Carnoustie because of a light rain overnight and more rain in the forecast the rest of the day. The course is so dry and brittle that judging how far the ball rolls on the turf remains the puzzle for players to decipher. Ryan Moore birdied the third hole and was at 4-under, one shot behind first-round leader Kevin Kisner. ___ 7 a.m. As if Carnoustie wasn't enough of a challenge, players now get to face wet conditions in the British Open. A light rain fell overnight, and Brandt Snedeker put on rain gear as he coped with a light drizzle Friday morning to start the second round. The amount of rain was not expected to take away the fiery conditions of Carnoustie. Kevin Kisner played in the afternoon, unsure if the 5-under 66 he posted for the 18-hole lead would still be the score to chase by the end of the day. Among those with an early start was Rory McIlroy, who was three shots behind, and Tiger Woods, who opened with an even-par 71. Five shots is the closest Woods has been to the lead after the first round since March.
  • One of two men detained in Kazakhstan on suspicion of killing Olympic figure skating medalist Denis Ten has confessed, authorities said Friday. Prosecutor Berik Zhuyrektayev said in a televised statement that Nuraly Kiyasov 'confessed his guilt in the presence of an attorney' while being questioned over the 25-year-old skater's death Thursday in the Kazakh city of Almaty. The prosecutor didn't give further details of what exactly Kiyasov had said. Police have also detained 23-year-old Arman Kudaibergenov in connection with Ten's death, which has prompted national mourning. Authorities released a picture of the disheveled-looking man being held by masked men wearing body armor and camouflage uniforms. Ten was stabbed after a dispute with people who allegedly tried to steal a mirror from his car in his home city of Almaty. He died in hospital of massive blood loss from multiple wounds, the Kazinform news agency said. Prosecutors are treating his death as murder. Kazinform reported that Kiyasov was taken to the scene of the crime under heavy security Friday as part of the investigation. Ten's bronze in Sochi in 2014 made him Kazakhstan's first Olympic medalist in figure skating. He also won the Four Continents championships in 2015, and was a world championship silver medalist in 2013. He struggled with injuries in recent years and could only finish 27th at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February. Ten had been working on a script in recent months which the Kazakh-Russian director Timur Bekmambetov said Friday would now be turned into a movie. 'We're definitely going to try to realize his idea and shoot a film dedicated to this multi-talented person,' Bekmambetov said in comments released by Kazakhstan's embassy to Russia. 'In his 25 years, Ten managed to do very much and had grand plans which he would surely have put into practice because he was a real hard worker.
  • The All-Star break is over. It's right about now when the Chicago Cubs usually take off. Jason Heyward had three hits and two RBIs, Ian Happ belted a two-run homer and the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-6 on Thursday night for their fourth consecutive victory. Chicago and St. Louis returned a day earlier than the rest of the majors, but it sure looked like business as usual for the NL Central leaders. The Cubs improved 150-73 after the All-Star break since 2015, baseball's best such record over that stretch. 'I just feel like the biggest thing for us is a positive mindset throughout,' Heyward said. 'Not getting too high, not getting too low.' Anthony Rizzo added two doubles from the leadoff spot as Chicago moved a season-high 18 games over .500. Victor Caratini had three hits and scored three times in the opener of a five-game series, and Ben Zobrist delivered a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the Cubs' five-run fifth inning. 'Just really good at-bats,' manager Joe Maddon said. With the abbreviated break, Maddon held All-Stars Willson Contreras and Javier Baez out of the starting lineup. Caratini and Zobrist picked up the slack quite nicely as Chicago increased its advantage to a season-high three games over idle Milwaukee. Yadier Molina matched a career high with four hits for St. Louis, but interim manager Mike Shildt was handed his first loss in his second game in charge after Mike Matheny was fired Saturday night. Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter each hit a solo homer. 'When you're facing a team like Chicago, you have to bring your 'A' game,' Molina said. 'We didn't bring our 'A' game with the pitching and defense.' The Cardinals had a 3-1 lead before the Cubs started teeing off on Carlos Martinez (6-6) in the fifth. Caratini singled, advanced to second on shortstop Paul DeJong's throwing error and scored on Rizzo's stinging double into the gap in right-center. Heyward hit a tying RBI single and Zobrist followed with a fly ball to center, driving in Kris Bryant for a 4-3 lead. Happ then hit a drive deep to right-center for his 12th homer. He also went deep in his previous game, connecting for a solo shot in Saturday night's 11-6 victory at San Diego. 'We didn't make some plays tonight, and it hurt us,' Shildt said. Brian Duensing (3-0) got the last out of the fifth for the win. Pedro Strop got one out for his third save after the Cubs placed closer Brandon Morrow on the 10-day disabled list as part of a flurry of pregame moves. Martinez allowed six runs, five earned, and seven hits in five innings. The right-hander went 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA in his previous four starts. Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks also struggled, yielding nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. But he wiggled out of a couple jams while limiting the Cardinals to three runs. WATCH OUT Umpire Kerwin Danley staggered away from the plate after taking Bryant's foul ball off his mask in the eighth. Molina helped steady Danley while a Cubs trainer came out of the dugout. Danley stayed in the game after the trainer checked him out. A LITTLE RELIEF The Cubs acquired right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez from Texas for minor league pitcher Tyler Thomas in a deal announced after the game. Chavez is 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA this season. 'Good arm. Versatile. Can start and relieve,' Maddon said. MAKING MOVES Morrow is dealing with right biceps inflammation. The DL stint is retroactive to Monday. The Cubs also activated outfielder Albert Almora Jr. and relievers Carl Edwards Jr. and Anthony Bass. Almora was placed on the family medical emergency list Sunday. Edwards was on the paternity list, and Bass was sidelined by an illness. Infielder David Bote and reliever Rob Zastryzny were sent down to Triple-A Iowa. TRAINER'S ROOM Cardinals: OF Harrison Bader was available off the bench after leaving Sunday's 6-4 victory over Cincinnati with a hyperextended left knee. Cubs: SS Nico Hoerner, Chicago's first-round pick in last month's draft, hurt his left elbow diving for a ball in his fourth game with Class A South Bend. He will miss the rest of the season with the ligament injury, but he said he doesn't think he will need surgery and could play again in the fall. UP NEXT Cubs ace Jon Lester and Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty get the ball on Friday afternoon. Lester (12-2, 2.58 ERA) is 8-0 with a 2.80 ERA in his last nine starts. Flaherty (3-4, 3.24 ERA) pitched five shutout innings in a no-decision against Cincinnati in his previous start on Saturday. ___ Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Brewers general manager David Stearns wants reliever Josh Hader to 're-earn the trust' of his teammates when he rejoins the team Friday. Milwaukee is set to resume its season following the All-Star break, the first time the club will assemble since Hader's years-old racist and homophobic tweets surfaced during the All-Star Game. 'He's going to have to work very hard to re-earn the trust of some people who may question who he is right now,' Stearns said. 'I think I know who Josh Hader is, and I personally do not believe that these comments represent who he is as a person.' The 24-year-old Hader apologized and took responsibility for the tweets after the game, saying they did not reflect his values or the person he is now. He'll return to a conflicted clubhouse, though teammates seem eager to accept Hader's apologies. 'It's a lot to deal with. I can't really defend anything he said. I know it was a long time ago but at the same time, those tweets are wrong. It's a lot,' third baseman Travis Shaw said before an optional workout Thursday at Miller Park. The team's five All-Stars, including Hader, did not take part. 'I can defend the person he is now. I would have never guessed that something like that would come from him,' Shaw added. 'He's a good kid now. I'd never in a 100 years guess that he'd say something like that.' Hader may address the team collectively. At the least, he'll have questions to answer. 'We want to be there and support him, we want to hear what he has to say,' veteran Ryan Braun said. 'And ultimately as a team, you want to be able to move on from it.' Until Tuesday, Hader was best known as the hard-throwing left-hander in the Brewers' strong bullpen. He has been a lights-out reliever since coming up to the majors in June 2017. Hader's 6-foot-3 frame, long hair and glasses gave him a unique look on the mound. Hitters often flail at his fastball and buckle when he throws a slider. The filthy stuff allowed Hader to strike out 89 in just 48 innings. Several of Hader's tweets from 2011 and 2012 came to light Tuesday while Hader was pitching in the All-Star Game. Hader learned of the situation when he left the game. He said he did not 'vividly' remember the tweets. 'Being 17 years old, you make stupid decisions and mistakes,' Hader said Tuesday night. 'I was in high school. We're still learning who we are in high school. You live and you learn. This mistake won't happen again.' MLB announced Wednesday the commissioner's office would require Hader to participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives in addition to the sensitivity training. Stearns said the Brewers followed the league's lead in not disciplining Hader. 'Josh is going to be here (Friday). He's a part of this team. We care about him as a teammate and we can do that at the same time as being offended and really, disappointed in the comments that came out the other day,' Stearns said. A similar sentiment was echoed by nearly everyone else in the clubhouse Thursday. Team chemistry that has been a strength of the club that won 55 games before the break will be tested. 'I love the kid, I love him. A lot of those tweets were song lyrics that I recognized,' outfielder Keon Broxton said. 'I know it's just him being a young kid. Not saying it was right, but I do forgive him and can definitely look past it.' Notes: LHP Wade Miley (1-1) will open the three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, followed by Chase Anderson and Brent Suter. Manny Machado is expected to make his Dodgers debut after Los Angeles acquired the All-Star from Baltimore in exchange for five prospects. The Brewers were one of the other suitors for Machado. ... C Manny Pina (left biceps strain) has started a rehab assignment at Class A Wisconsin. ... Braun (back strain) said that he might return from the 10-day disabled list if he got through his workout OK on Thursday. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • A look at what's happening around the majors today: HADER RETURNS Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader rejoins the team, three days after years-old racist and homophobic tweets of his resurfaced during the All-Star Game. The Brewers open the second half at Miller Park against the Dodgers. The 24-year-old Hader has apologized for the tweets, saying they did not reflect his values or the person he is now. The commissioner's office will require Hader to participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives and sensitivity training. Hader spoke with Brewers teammate Lorenzo Cain after the All-Star Game in Washington. Cain, who is African-American, said he expects the club to accept Hader's present-day statements and move on. MACHADO DEBUT Manny Machado plays his first game for the Dodgers, filling a big gap at shortstop when the NL West leaders visit Milwaukee. Los Angeles traded five minor leaguers to Baltimore during the break for the four-time All-Star. The 26-year-old Machado was hitting .315 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs. Shortstop Corey Seager helped the Dodgers reach the World Series last year, but had Tommy John surgery in May. Machado might need to work out another trade, too. His favorite No. 13 is worn by Dodgers bright spot Max Muncy. We'll see if Machado can come up with a deal to get the jersey. OHTANI REPORT The Angels say two-way star Shohei Ohtani's elbow ligament is continuing to heal and he has been medically cleared to begin a throwing progression. There's no timetable when the Japanese sensation might pitch again for Los Angeles. Ohtani was put on the disabled list with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain on June 8. He has since rejoined the Angels as a designated hitter. He is batting .283 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. On the mound, Ohtani won four of his first five decisions before getting injured. LENDING A HAND All-Star closer Brad Hand joins the AL Central-leading Indians as they begin the second half in Texas. Cleveland got the lefty and rookie righty sidearmer Adam Cimber from the rebuilding Padres on Thursday for switch-hitting catching prospect Francisco Mejia. The Indians own the biggest division lead in the majors at 7 1/2 games over Minnesota, but want to a bolster a bullpen that's been minus star lefty Andrew Miller since late May and has a 5.28 ERA, second-worst in the majors. WANT HIM? Reliever Santiago Casilla is available, a day after the Athletics released him. The right-hander turns 38 next week and was 0-0 with one save and a 3.16 ERA in 26 games. He's has had control trouble, walking 20 in 31 1-3 innings. Casilla has 144 saves in a 15-year career spent entirely in the Bay Area with the A's and Giants. He has plenty of postseason experience, posting a 0.92 ERA in 25 games and helping San Francisco win three World Series titles. BRONX BOUND Mets star Noah Syndergaard pitches at Yankee Stadium for the first time when the Subway Series resumes in New York. Syndergaard has faced the Yankees just once, as a rookie in mid-September 2015, and he got off to a rough start — Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led off that game with singles and Carlos Beltran followed with a home run in the Mets' 5-0 loss.
  • The Latest on the Miami Dolphins anthem policy (all times local): 10:15 p.m. The NFL and National Football League Players Association released a joint statement, saying: 'The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing. 'The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice. 'Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.' ___ 7:45 p.m. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, an online civil rights organization that has supported boycotting the NFL, points out that the Dolphins' policy puts protesting the national anthem on the same plane as testing positive for drugs or domestic violence charges. A positive drug test carries a potential four-game suspension, and domestic violence charges can carry a six-game suspension and even a lifetime ban for a second offense. 'It speaks volumes about what they think about black people,' Robinson said. 'What the Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross are doing is making a real claim that the injustices that people are speaking out against don't matter.' Robinson said he has been in touch in recent months with Ross' Initiative in Sports for Equality, or RISE, to help find new leadership for the nonprofit. RISE is 'dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress,' according to the organization's website. '(Ross') idea of harnessing people's political voice is shutting it down,' Robinson said. — AP National Writer Errin Haines Whack reporting from Philadelphia. ___ 7:15 p.m. The Dolphins say 'all options are still open' regarding the team's decision to include protesting the anthem on the large list of violations considered conduct detrimental to the club and subject to a suspension of up to four games under a team policy issued this week. The 'Proper Anthem Conduct' section is just one sentence in a nine-page discipline document provided to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the policy who insisted on anonymity because the document is not public. It classifies anthem protests under a large list of 'conduct detrimental to the club' that includes gambling, riding motorcycles and more, all of which could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both. ___ For more AP NFL coverage: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • It's the season of hope in college football. Then there's Vanderbilt. The Commodores are the St. Louis Browns of the gridiron, a team that looks hopelessly overmatched and out of place in the mighty Southeastern Conference, with its conglomerate of de facto pro franchises stretching from Athens to Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge. Despite the bold optimism displayed Thursday by coach Derek Mason at SEC Media Days, there's little reason to believe Vandy is anywhere close to being on a level playing field with the Crimson Tides of the world. 'We know what other people think of us,' senior safety LaDarius Wiley said with a telling shrug. 'We know the position that we're in, we know the school that we go to, and we know the cross we have to bear.' Vandy hasn't won a championship of any type since 1923, a decade before the founding of the SEC and the same year Calvin Coolidge took over as president following the death of Warren Harding. No other Power Five school has a longer title drought, assuming Iowa State gets credit for sharing the Big 12 North Division crown in 2004. (Otherwise, the Cyclones must have go all the way back to 1912 for their last championship, in what was then known as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.) Mississippi State, which captured its lone SEC title in 1941, is the only other Power Five school that has a league title drought that extends beyond the 1960s. And the Bulldogs, it must be noted, did earn a spot in the 1998 conference championship game by finishing atop the West Division. The Commodores haven't come close to a title since 1955, when they went to the final game of the regular season with an outside chance to claim the SEC crown, assuming a bunch of things went right. Alas, nothing did. Vandy lost to a 20-14 heartbreaker to rival Tennessee, while Ole Miss and Auburn both won easily over their state rivals that same day to share the title. Since the end of the 1950s, the Commodores have an SEC record of 71-330-6. Only twice — in 1982 and 2012 — have they finished above .500 in conference play. Mason, certainly on the hot seat heading into his fifth season as coach, seems blissfully undeterred by the weight of history. 'There's been media out there that spoke to the idea that our game is one to be overlooked,' said Mason, who in 18-31 overall and 6-26 in the SEC since taking over for James Franklin in 2014. 'Watch out. I'm telling you right now, this team is going to show up. We're going to play well. We are going come out the blocks and play the way we need to, and we're going to finish this the way we should, the Vanderbilt way.' As amazing as it may seem, there was a time when the Vandy way was a winning way. The Commodores were a college football powerhouse at the beginning of the last century, winning or sharing 14 conference titles in, first, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and, then, the Southern Conference. These days, Vandy is a complete anomaly compared to the rest of the SEC. The private institution has by far the smallest enrollment in the conference (less than 12,000 students), plays its home games in the league's smallest, most outdated stadium, and doesn't come anywhere close to matching the training facilities and resources of their rival schools. Throw in some tough academic standards, which put a further burden on recruiting, and it's no mystery why the Commodores have been left in the dust. Then again, other schools with similar challenges — Stanford, Northwestern, even Duke in a handful of seasons — have managed to succeed on the football field. Why not Vandy? 'For me, it's about being able to see your program holistically,' Mason said. 'In a place like Vanderbilt, that's exact actually what you have to do. You have to be able to make sure you can forecast out, build your program the right way. And I truly believe we've done that through recruiting, through hiring the right staff. It's just taken a little time to get there.' There was a smidgen of hope during the Franklin era. But he bolted for Penn State after guiding the Commodores to consecutive 9-4 seasons, and Vandy quickly slipped back to its usual ways under Mason. A year ago, Vandy won its first three games, including an upset of then-ranked Kansas State. But any hope that the tide had turned was snuffed by a 59-0 rout at the hands of eventual national champion Alabama . The Commodores lost seven of their last nine games to finish in their usual spot near the bottom of the SEC. Mason blames himself for letting one bad loss ruin what could've been a promising season. 'I probably got in my feelings a little bit and thought my team needed to be harder, and we needed to work that team harder. We really didn't. A loss is a loss,' he said. 'You can't let one become two become three become four in this conference. And that's what I did.' Mason's players shrug off the perception that Vandy faces every season. That this is a lost cause. That the only victories they can realistically hope for are moral. 'I believe we can win an SEC championship,' Wiley said, his voice rising hopefully. 'We play the game to go 1-0 every week. If we go 1-0 every week, we'll like the chances of what happens after that.' ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry ___ For more AP college football coverage: www.collegefootball.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_Top25